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'I'm With Stupid' T-Shirt Trips Up Ecuador's President

Politicians have basic rules about photo ops: Smile when you pose with kids, point at random things, and don't stand next to people taller than you. This week, Ecuador's President Rafael Correa learned one more: Don't get on the wrong side of an "I'm With Stupid" T-shirt.

In a gaffe that plays right into the hands of social media and his critics, Correa did just that, in a recent photo he took with a boy who was wearing the shirt, its arrow pointing directly at the president. If you're wondering: Correa speaks fluent English and holds a doctorate in economics from the University of Illinois. He has conducted interviews in both Spanish and English.

Jokes and comments immediately sprang up after the photo emerged on Twitter, driven by hashtags such as #IAmWithStupidMashi — and a competing tag, #WeAreWithYouMashi (a reference to Correa's nickname of Mashi).

One comment floated a conspiracy in which the boy was a CIA infiltrator attempting to destabilize the government. Another stated, "They say that kids and drunks never lie!"

The photo seems to have been originally tweeted by the account EcuadorDeLaEsperanza (Ecuador of Hope), which later sent out an altered version of the image, with the word "Stupid" replaced by "Genius."

The photo and its aftermath are a very public blunder for Correa, who has generally enjoyed wide support in his country since he took office in 2007.

Here's how an NPR report described him last summer, when he was floating the idea of serving past his term limits:

"A charismatic leftist, Correa often clashes with Washington and expelled a U.S. ambassador, and he considered offering asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden. But many Ecuadoreans adore their president. The Correa government has taken advantage of a spike in oil prices to build hospitals, schools, dams and highways. The poverty rate has fallen from 37 to 27 percent. Last year, voters re-elected Correa in a landslide."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.